At the Anguilla Saint James School of Medicine school, we are truly thankful to have such a bright and vibrant student body. Our students come from across the globe in the pursuit of a quality, affordable medical education and have the drive and charisma to exceed even their own expectations. Before our 2014 classes kicked off, we sat down with a number of students to get a gauge of their thoughts, feelings and goals regarding the next big step in their educational path. Today, meet Anguilla student body president, MD3 Kurtis Carlson!
What was your first impression of the island?
I was blown away by the beauty. We arrived in the late afternoon and as we approached Anguilla on the speedboat from St. Maarten, all I could do was stare at the crystal blue water. As we got closer to Anguilla, I could see why people were always posting about how beautiful it is. The beaches are unreal. Definitely postcard type views here.
I really do like the island, but keep in mind, that it is quite small. You do tend to develop island fever when you are here for long enough, so trips home on breaks for some students are pretty necessary! The locals are very friendly, and if you become involved in organizations such as the Red Cross, you will meet them in a more intimate manner at the health fairs. They appreciate what the students do for them and are open to express their gratitude. The restaurants are amazing and there are a few bars here as well to unwind after block exams. The island is quiet, compared to St. Maarten, so this is a bonus when it comes to being in medical school.
Compared to when you first got here, what is your impression of the island now?
I feel like it is more of a home now than when I first arrived. When I first got here, it felt like I was a tourist. Now people come up to me in the gym or the grocery store and they recognize you. Locals sometime ask me when the next health fair is. It is nice knowing that you have been “accepted” as a resident in a foreign country.
As I am in MD3 now and am very busy with my workload, I haven’t experienced the island much this semester. In my last semester, I plan to get SCUBA certified and explore a lot more. There is so much here to see and experience. No wonder people pay a huge amount of money to vacation here. I really do believe it’s one of higher nicest islands in the Caribbean.
What advice would you give an incoming student who may be having anxiety about moving?
Everyone has anxiety when they are moving. Even though it may be excitement at first, it usually turns into anxiety. As many people do not have a clue as to what to expect when they are moving, panicking is normal. Fortunately, you’re in the same boat as the rest of your classmates, and the upperclassmen as well as the SGA members and other organizations are more than willing to help with this transition.
If you are someone who likes to be around others, I would recommend trying to find housing with other students instead of living on your own. This will also help form study groups to aid in learning material. Make sure you plan Skype dates and frequent communication with loved ones back home to prevent homesickness. Not everyone adjusts as well as others to stressful events like moving to a foreign country, but be sure that you will have people to help you along the way once you arrive.
Was the transition to medical school in the Caribbean easier or harder than you imagined?
Much easier. It is difficult to live this far away from family and friends, but when you have your goal in mind, it makes it easier. Some days are stressful. Some days you curse the island, curse the school, curse the neighbor’s dog… but this all comes with the stress that comes with medical school. Form study groups, join clubs, participate with community events. All of this will help your transition and make the 16 months on the island go as smooth as possible.
What has been your favorite event so far?
There are so many events that are associated with the school. There are block parties, some of which are hosted at an island that students take a boat to at night. There are community events, volunteering opportunities as well as many Anguillan events such as Carnival (once a year summer party which lasts a month).
My favorite event so far was called Olympiad and was put on by the SGA. It was a sport and academic challenge among the classes where each class (MD1-4) competes against each other. Events such as soccer, ultimate, basketball, tug-of-war, egg on a spoon, academic challenge as well as many others were included. This year was a great turnout and everyone had a blast. Sun, music, sports and a little competition makes for a great study break Saturday.
What is something you wish you knew before you started classes?
Schedule regular study breaks. Go to the beach. Medical school is hard, yes, but it should not totally control your life over your time here. Go out to restaurants, go to the beach, go to St. Maarten for a night or weekend. You’re living in paradise; it’s nice to actually feel like you are sometimes.
What do you think you’ll miss the most about the island once you leave?
The beaches. I’ve been here for almost a year now and every time I see the ocean here or go to a beach, I still get butterflies. The beauty of this island is nothing like I have ever seen anywhere in the world.
What do you do to distress or cope with the pressures of a heavy work load?
Exercise. There are a few gyms on the island to de-stress after a long day or week. I find that exercising really helps with stress levels. I also adopted a dog here, and having him around is always nice to take my mind off of lecture notes and exams. Just find what makes you happy once you’re here and use that as your reward for putting your study time in.
Finally, your favorite restaurant?
Blanchard’s beach shack on Mead’s Bay. Most beautiful beach in the world with amazing beach food right on the sand. Doesn’t get any better.